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Wendy Reuer, Published November 06 2010

Police finish guns probe

Despite complaints from parents on how the situation was handled, Fargo School District officials say they responded to the situation correctly after a gun was found in a student’s vehicle on campus Wednesday.

Eight male juveniles were arrested after a stolen revolver was found in a student’s vehicle in the parking lot at Fargo South High School. A second handgun – a 9 mm pistol – was also found at a student’s home later in the day which police suspected may have been on school property earlier in the day.

Three more guns were found at yet another student’s home. The weapons were believed to have been stolen in a home burglary near the school at 1840 15th Ave. S.

Sgt. Mark Lykken of the Fargo Police Department said Friday that the investigation is complete. The report will now be forwarded to the property crimes supervisor and will likely be passed on to juvenile prosecutors.

Some parents have publicly questioned the school’s decision not to notify them about the situation until Thursday. Officials maintained a threat to the school was not eminent because the juveniles did not plan to use the guns against anyone early on.

“Now at that point, we could begin talking about the situation or we could begin finding the rest of the weapons before they could come back on campus if that was the intention,” said assistant superintendent Lowell Wolff.

Fargo Schools has had plans in place to deal with threats or major incidents since 2005.

Wolff heads up a threat assessment task force or team in the district for these types of incidents. The planning and task force is based on a training program developed by the Secret Service.

A threat assessment team can be formed at the request of a principal or superintendent based on a student’s behavior, such as something written in an assignment or talk from other students.

The team – made up of Wolff, a school resource officer, a principal from a school other than where the incident may have occurred, and any staff that is close to the students involved – then acts quickly. It holds a meeting by the end of the day to a make a decision on the best course of action, which can range from handling the situation one-on-one with the student to enforcing a lockdown of the school for safety.

Authorities were tipped off Wednesday when a fellow student reported the rumor of guns on campus. Wolff said having an atmosphere at schools where students feel comfortable talking to staff and officials is a positive for the district.

“It makes the relationship between students and another adult the primary tool in stopping these incidents before it can blossom,” Wolff said.

School disciplinary action may be taken against the eight males. Wolff said once the criminal investigation is finished, disciplinary proceedings may begin.

“We’re waiting to hear all the facts,” Wolff said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530